inhale...exhale...relax your shoulders...repeat as often as needed

Monday, December 31, 2018

winding down on 2018

Our windowsill harvest...
Meyer lemons grown in central Vermont.
Their fragrance is filling the kitchen.

As we sit perched between 2018 and 2019
we're in the midst of a lovely opportunity for contemplation...
to look back and to look forward.

Will you be choosing a word for 2019,
to hold as a reminder for intention
 as you slide into the new year?

2018 has been winding down around here 
with a few rough patches we have had to navigate.
We're cautiously optimistic.
So I had not been paying much attention to all the new year stuff.


My word found me, even though I was not looking for one.
I'm working on a little paper banner to string up in my
sewing studio, which will be a visual reminder all through 2019
of something that's been nipping at my heels for ages.
Come on back tomorrow if you're curious about it. 

And here's a little something you might like to try...
Forks over Knives is offering a
a free 21-day plan to help you transition to a plant-based lifestyle.
I've signed up, with the intention of refocusing on healthier eating. 
Not hard core for us, just a gentle reminder of what changes
we can make to tidy up our eating habits.
Besides, who doesn't love a new recipe or two?
Have you watched their acclaimed documentary?
Let me know if you have already signed up or decide to.

Be safe tonight, friends!
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

between the solstice and christmas, a pause.

"May the Love which overcomes all differences,
which heals all wounds,
which puts to flight all fears,
which reconciles all who are separated,
be in us and among us
now and always."

-Frederick E Gillis

Friday, December 21, 2018

a more somber solstice

Where there is Light there is Hope, 
and so we Celebrate the Solstice!

And yet...there is often something new to learn
on this journey of life, eh?

Capstone Community Action 
sponsored a candlelight vigil tonight
in downtown Randolph. 
We stood under umbrellas in freezing drizzle,
bearing witness to homelessness.

December 21 is
National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day,
observed on the longest night of the year.

there but for the grace of the goddess go I

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

we have not forgotten...

Remembering the short and precious life of
Erin Elizabeth Potts.
May 14, 1991-December 18, 2009


Monday, December 17, 2018

grandma musings

Due to schedules and distances and needing to share our kids with their other families, Batman, Cora, Wilma and I will be having a very quiet holiday season here at our "bit of earth". But this past weekend we did a crazy 48 hour zoom down to Brooklyn and back. We drove because we had some balsam trees to deliver along the way, and a case of Long Trail ale, and a jug of maple syrup and some packages and a bag of "pass them along" magazines and we didn't think we could manage all that on Amtrak's Vermonter. 

Little Maggie has been part of our family for a bit over a year now, but this weekend I think I felt a shift under my feet. I've thought of her as part of our family, and indeed she is. But while we tromped around Brooklyn with Gretta, Ben and their little cherub, I realized that now we are also a part of their family. Does that make any sense?

I was reminded over and over again of one of my very favorite poems, Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Generation to Generation

"...Love, like a carefully loaded ship, crosses the gulf between generations..." 

You can read the full text of the poem here. It's a very lovely poem, in fact, Batman and I read it at Stewart and Dawn's wedding years ago. I have sent a copy of it to friends when I've thought it might be of some comfort. It's that kind of poem.

I love how the words of poems can provoke different nuances as we age. 

And I love that now I'm part of a younger family, too.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

noticing and listening

Happy Saint Lucia Day, friends! Celebrating our heart string connections to Sweden, I lit some birch luminaria early this morning and caught a silhouette of our Dala horse in the window.  

Ted Kooser's poems continue to remind me to notice the beauty that is all around me. The crescent moon at dawn on Monday set me on a mindful path for the day. On Tuesday, everything was covered in frost as I drove down the hill. The beauty of this early winter has been its silver lining.

Birchbark is finding its way into so many of my projects these days...I don't know if birches are a talisman or a totem for me or quite what...but these lovely trees really call my name. (What is the word I am looking for?)

If you are yearning for a circle of Light to sit in these days, brew yourself a pot of tea and settle in to listen to Krista Tippet interview Tracy K. Smith, our current poet laureate. The piece is about 52 minutes long, so be sure to set aside enough time to both listen and reflect on this inspiring piece. Six years ago, Hannah and I went to hear her read her poetry...

In the early evening, Hannah and I drove up and over the Rochester Gap, to the Big Town Gallery where we heard Tracy K Smith, the 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry read from her newest collection, Life on Mars. We were nestled in the gallery, set up with ancient wooden folding chairs, and a gentle drizzle coming down outside. What a blessing it was to sit quietly and let Tracy's lyrical words soak into us. Her work is brilliant, honest and deeply human. 
-July 16, 2012

Be well, friends. xo

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

tula tuesday::week 40

 block number 15
from tula pink's
city sampler,
100 modern quilt blocks.
and the inspiration.
i grew up next door to my paternal grandmother
and my christmas cactus has grown from a clipping
i took from her plant a few years before her death in 1992.
the plant has travelled with us from chicagoland to connecticut
and now to vermont.

it is a trace of my beloved grammielowry
that i still cherish.


Monday, December 10, 2018

baking into the festive season

our nifty vermont kitchen has a few pull-out drawers,
this one has a bunch of baking supplies tucked in.

batman is the holiday baker around here,
having been imprinted at an early age by his
grandma peggy and his mom.

i'm more into the tea breads.
he is full throttle sugar cookies, pecan puffs,
gingerbread people (but you must ask gretta about 
the lederhosen boys!), english toffee and
cinnamon squares.

today i listened to a podcast of
vermont edition that was originally broadcast
on friday, hosted by jane lindholm.

she interviewed "celebrity chef" gesine bullock-prado
about her new book, fantastical cakes.
you can listen to the interview here.
let me just say that
gesine takes her cake baking very seriously.

fyi, gesine is a vermonter and the sister of actress sandra bullock.

(i was reminded of my "meet up" with vicki g. at king arthur
a while back. vicki was lucky enough to attend a "meet and greet"
with gesine when vicki was taking a few classes
at the king arthur baking school in norwich.)

i've got granola and orange cranberry bread
on my baking list for this week.

do you have any holiday baking in mind dear readers?

Friday, December 7, 2018

kooser, rope bowls and tea

Oh friends, this was the view on my way down the hill just after sunrise. The "snow ghosts" were swirling across the road along the ridge. It was 20 degrees and dropping. The low temperature overnight is forecast to be -2, with single digits for a low most of next week. This really is an early and fierce winter season...and it's not even really winter yet. 

This week's Kooser poems have been especially lovely. I thought of him as I rose from bed the other day and spotted my old favorite, Orion perched on the top of the Green Mountains. Have you been enjoying Winter Morning Walks
Our VTMQG is in the midst of a rope bowl frenzy. At our last meeting, one of our members showed us how to make them. Our holiday gathering is coming up, complete with a gift swap for those who want to participate. We've been invited to make a rope bowl, put a small gift in it, wrap it and bring it to our meeting on Sunday. I've wanted to try crafting a rope bowl for ages, and so I took advantage of the incentive. They are addictive and a bit meditative at the same time! I am still struggling a bit with how to incorporate a bit of fabric here and there, but I shall persevere. Members have been posting pictures on Instagram...our president has made cat sized bowls for her kitties to nap in.

You can find all sorts of tutorials for rope bowls online, and lots of fun inspiration if you check #ropebowl on Instagram. Let me know if you have made one, or if you try one son. :-)
In the self care department (in December don't you think this is especially important?) I've been brewing an old favorite anti-inflammatory tea. It is really delicious.
  1. Boil 2 cups of water
  2. Add 1/4 tsp each of whole cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds
  3. Cover and continue to slow boil for 5-10 minutes
  4. Remove from heat and let cool to a comfortable drinking temperature
  5. If desired, add raw honey to taste (Do not add raw honey to boiling hot water)
(With thanks to Marie Frohlich and a workshop she gave on anti-inflammatory tips at a NOFA-VT conference a few years ago.)

Hope you have a fine weekend, friends. Be gentle with yourselves and those around you. This can be a challenging time of year to keep our equilibrium. xo

Thursday, December 6, 2018

how are you faring?

 Batman's annual peace wreath, hanging on the garage door.
I really appreciate his devotion to this tradition.
 Tea towel+trimming+hemming+curtain rod=cafe curtain.
 Half of a grapefruit, 
four holes poked around the edge of the peel
and kitchen string create a hanging bowl.
Filled it with leftover bacon grease and birdseed
and hung it outside the kitchen window...
A snack station for chickadees.

The days get shorter,
the flurries keep flurrying.
The greens are gathered,
the lights are strung.
Steam rises from the mug of tea,
and the lists get written.
Carving out calm and peace...

How are you faring,
dearest readers, 
as we move deeper into the season
of the natural world's hibernation 
and our human time of celebration?

Be gentle with yourselves.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

tula tuesday::week 39

block number 6
from tula pink's
city sampler
100 modern quilt blocks.

i used a bit of my tansy dyed linen,
a reminder of warmer days! 
and the inspiration...
we have four Meyer lemons
ripening on our windowsill tree.

(the tree was a gift from batman,
a few years back. 
he ordered it from here)

Monday, December 3, 2018

december light

"I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try
to put myself in the path of its beam."
-Annie Dillard

Our first paper white narcissus has opened on the windowsill in the kitchen, and already her scent has filled the space. Angie left a comment a few days back, asking about the "how to" of forcing bulbs. I would like to recommend a beautiful book, forcing, etc. I have a signed copy that I bought when we visited White Flower Farm in CT years ago and we use it each fall as we prep the bulbs for the root cellar.  You can find the book on Amazon, or at your local independent bookstore, and I would encourage you to check used book stores too, or ask your local library to see if they have it or ask about inter-library loans. There are so many ways to have access to books these days.

Did you see the crescent moon and Venus at dawn this morning? The crescent had a ring around it here in Vermont and the sky was blue just before dawn. It looked like a Maxfield Parrish painting.

You may have read about the capitol building in Montpelier here at sewandsowlife before. It's a gorgeous building, with a golden dome, that backs up against a hill dense with evergreens. There's a statue of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and fertility perched on the top of the dome. Ceres was removed a while ago. She was falling apart due to years of exposure to Vermont weather. On Friday a new statue was raised via crane and you can read about it here. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom to see her up close. The golden circlet in her hair is simply gorgeous, and who can resist a sheaf of grains, cradled in a goddess's arms? I am looking forward to checking her out when I go to Montpelier for errands this afternoon.

Last night I tried a new soup recipe and it was fabulous. A new fave that will go into heavy rotation in the kitchen, for sure. The spuds and leeks came from our root cellar. The celeriac and spinach came from local farms, and the recipe is from Cedar Circle Farm, just down the highway a bit.

And in celebration of Hanukkah...

"A candle is a small thing. But one candle can light another. And see how its own light increases, as a candle gives its flame to the other. You are such a light."
-Moshe Davis

Friday, November 30, 2018

recovering from the storm

 Trees and wires down on our road,
a common scene all over central Vermont.
 The hard working linemen from Green Mountain Power,
 worked their tails off for days on end.
In the midst of the storm that was still raging, these guys
ventured up into the woods and across meadows, 
with 12-16" of snow on the ground,
tracing the power lines to the multiple sources of trouble.
They worked outside our home in the pitch dark
and ongoing snowfall for an hour on Tuesday.
 Despite the inconvenience over the last few days,
I was moved to pull over to the side of the road,
get out of my car and lift my arms in worship.
Mother Nature is such a gorgeous goddess.
We melted snow on the Home Comfort and 
used the water to flush the toilet.
We shoveled and shoveled and 
took note of the trees and branches that will 
need to be cut down as soon as we can manage it,
(the stand of lovely birches in the side yard will have to go,
I am a bit broken hearted about that situation).
I drank a lot of hot tea
and wore more layers than usual.
I went down to town to check on email once a day.
I did hand sewing and read a lot and
 liked being disconnected a bit!
We sat in the evenings by candlelight and
 fell asleep earlier than usual.
Having no phone was a little disconcerting, 
but that's been resolved, too.

We were at a meeting in Barre last night that included
a hot dinner (much appreciated!)
Driving home, we noticed that 
lots of folks in our neighborhood had their 
lights on and as we came around the last gentle curve
in the road and I saw a light at our house 
twinkling through the trees 
and I let out a whoop of delight.

Nothing like a "snow event" to remind us 
of the many things we take for granted.

I thought about Laura and her Little House in the Big Woods 
more than once this week.


oh good grief

Hello friends! After I finished up my last post about our winter storm, the power went out again. We had enjoyed about five hours of power in the late afternoon/dinner time on Tuesday and then poof! Off it went. We finally had the power restored last night, after another 48 hours without. Will check in later today with all of you. And I look forward to catching up with my blog reading, too. :-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

tula tuesday::week 37

 block number 81
from tula pink's
city sampler
100 modern quilt blocks.
 11" of snow have fallen since yesterday afternoon.
 the power went out at 1 in the morning.
 we fired up the home comfort first thing and i hunkered in for the day.
batman went cautiously down the hill to work.
trees are down, wires are hanging.
we have lost a bunch of trees here,
including a birch in our side yard.

our amazing town road crew and the guys
from green mountain power
were busy on the hill all day.
chain saws.
plows running with chains on their wheels.
the neighbor's generator running down in the valley.
sounds of country living...

around 3 this afternoon our power came back on,
along with our phone and internet service.

the lights have flickered a few times,
but so far, so good.
this week's square was hand stitched because my
faithful bernina was quiet.

there's been a lot of white on white lately.
...and it's still just november...


Saturday, November 24, 2018

reaping what we sow

We have a little room, tucked under a slanting roof, just off our kitchen. The gentleman we bought the original cabin from used this room when he tied his fly fishing lures. Truth be told, I think it was his "man cave". When we first started coming up here, it was Gretta's bedroom. Then it was Peter's office for a bit when he did some consulting work. After our big renovation it became the "room of requirement", a lá Harry Potter. 
One wall is filled with shelving and it serves as our pantry. Baking pans, assorted small appliances, dried beans, canned foods and cookbooks are stored here. My very own red toolbox is on the top shelf. Don't mess with it. :-)
A twin bed is tucked into the other side of the room, allowing overflow sleep space for when we have a very full house. Sometimes I sneak in here with a mug of tea, curl up and read cookbooks. The curtains are made from some of my Grammie Lowry's table cloths. The rug on the floor is made of old jeans. You can find my tutorial here. The quilt is made from an old and favorite chambray dress that I wore for years and a stack of flannel squares.
Under the rug, in the floor of the "room of requirement" is a trap door, with stairs leading down to the root cellar. How lucky are we to have a house with a root cellar? It tends to stay a pretty steady 45-50 degrees year round. There are no windows and the floor has a layer of pebbles, covered by thick plastic sheeting.
Right now, we have a whole collection of flower bulbs potted up, waiting to come upstairs. Bit by bit, we will perch them on our windowsills, forcing them into bloom all winter long. Hyacinths, paper whites, têt-à-têt daffodils and amaryllis will remind us that the winter shall pass, and the world will be green again come springtime.
We had a good onion harvest and many of them are stored in the mesh bottomed box, here. We bought some butternut squash from our friend "Farmer Chip" at Pebble Brook Farm, just up and over the ridge, and they are stashed down here too.
We did not grow potatoes this year, so we have fingerlings, reds and Yukon golds from Chip as well.
We store our carrots and beets in buckets of playground sand. Here are some of the beets...they have been sending up shoots in the pitch dark.
Remember the leeks I harvested before the first hard freeze? They are doing OK, planted in a bucket of potting soil. I'm thinking potato, celeriac, leek soup sometime next week...

(Our garlic, which don't store as well in a root cellar, are nestled in a covered basket, pushed under the bed, where it's not quite as cool.)

I do so love having some of our produce tucked under the floor of the "room of requirement". It's part of the dream we'd been dreaming for years. We know where the food came from and how it was grown and harvested. When the snow is blowing outside our windows in February, what's on our plates will be evidence of the fruits of our labor. We'll be reminded of the quiet evenings of weeding with a glass of wine in hand, listening to the breezes in the balsams and the birds as they settle down for the night. I think I've already forgotten the mosquitos!


Thursday, November 22, 2018


"Gratitude is heaven itself"
-William Blake

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

tula tuesday::week 37

 block number 81
from tula pink's
city sampler
100 modern quilt blocks.
 and the paperwhites,
sprouting on the windowsill
that inspired the block...
 and the ivy creeping along the curtain rod
in the bathroom. 
touches of green in a very white landscape.
 the white and grey has been so lovely,
with flurries nearly every day.

so peaceful and quiet and calm.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

sunday simplicity

Corazón and Wilma with a gentle reminder:

It's not what we have in our life,
but who we have in our life that

-J. M. Laurence

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

solstice gift ideas and another modern japanese rice pouch

Here's another version of kzsteven's Modern Japanese Rice Pouch. I had been wanting to sew another pouch, inspired by the upcoming winter solstice. 
I used soft, quiet neutral fabrics to reflect the mood of the wintery days ahead.
The little bit of embroidery I stitched last week served as the hopping off point for the bag. Sewing this up yesterday during the snowstorm got me to thinking about the solstice and I was surprised to realize it's just a bit more than a month away. As I sat at my Bernina, I began to brainstorm a list of wee gifts that might be appropriate for holiday giving. Maybe you would like to see my ideas and add  a few of your own suggestions.
Solstice celebrations are ancient. The special twenty four hours surrounding the shift feels free of the clutter of our more "modern day" holidays. I love to embrace it as a time to celebrate wonder and renewal in the midst of the darkest days of winter (at least here in the northern hemisphere). Sometimes I mark the solstice by gifting friends and family with thoughtful, little tokens of my affection. These ideas could certainly work for Christmas as well.

Bringing the outdoors in is a natural way to mark the solstice.nging the outdoors in is a natural way to decorate for the solstice...
-One of the most simple of gifts might be a heart, cut from foraged birch bark, and hung on a string. On the darkest of nights, the birches glow in the woods, with their white bark catching the moonlight.

-Pine cones, strung on twine, can create a lovely garland, to hang in a window or from a shelf.

-Frangrant bundles of fresh herbs, like sage, wrapped together with cedar bits, cinnamon sticks and anise stars, and hung with a bit of ribbon could scent a room for days.

-A swag of balsam boughs, bound with ribbon and a jingle bell creates a welcome at the front door, like this.

-Balsam sachets can be tucked into drawers.

There are so many ways to bring light to a friend's home...

-Beeswax candles can be purchased and gifted or you can make your own by tightly wrapping bee's wax sheets around wicks.

-Luminaria can be crafted from paper bags, a bit of sand and votive candles.

-Stars, folded from white paper, can be hung alone or strung in a row or piled in a bowl. Pinterest is full of tutorials!

-Make a date with a friend to go out at night and look up at the stars. Bring cozy blankets and a thermos full of hot chocolate. Check before you go out, to see what constellations you might see.

Food is a central part of celebrating holidays...

-A nicely wrapped loaf of quick bread is easy to tuck into your bag to drop off at a co-worker's desk, or at your local library. Or make an oven's worth and drop them at your local senior center. Cranberry orange, pumpkin spice and lemon blueberry are some of our faves.

-Homemade granola, stored in a pretty glass jar and tagged with the recipe will be appreciated by most folks.

-We like to make raspberry cordial because it reminds us--in the dead of winter--of the sunny summer days when raspberries are falling of their canes. A small bottle of cordial makes a nice solstice gift. Recipe here.

-Who wouldn't love a jar of spiced or roasted nuts, delivered along with a mesh bag of clementines?

-Don't forget the birdies! Gift a friend with a suet feeder and a few cakes of suet. Or make suet balls at home with this recipe.

As cold as it is outside, there are seeds germinating under the ground, a precious reminder that warmth will return.

-Gift a glass jar, filled with an amaryllis bulb or a few paper white narcissus, anchored with some rounded pebbles or aquarium gravel. Include a note describing how to "force" them to bloom.

-Sew a little pouch and slip some seed packets inside.

-Make a collage with photos from last year's seed catalog and put it in an inexpensive frame.

If you are a stitcher, here are some ideas for sewing a gift or two...

-For the sewer in your circle of friends, consider making a needle case, or a meditative pincushion. The needle case instructions can be found here. The pincushion instructions can be found in issue 3 of making magazine.   Crazy Mom Quilts has a number of free tutorials for pin cushions on her blog, here.

-Lotta Jansdotter has written a wonderful book called Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style, which is full of patterns and quick projects. I found a tutorial for a neat fabric bracelet, you can see my version, here. There's also a fun patchwork bias tape necklace that I'd like to try in solstice whites. Lotta also has patterns for tunics, totes and dresses included. Maybe your local library can find the book for you!

-If you have an artist in your midst, here's a very fun pencil roll you can sew. The pattern for this gift can be found in Joelle Hoveson's book, Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts.

-There are two fun projects for kids in issue 2 of making magazine. Woodland Finger Puppets (left) are embroidered with a simple outline stitch, and Squirrel, (right) by Grainline Studio is made of felt.

-A "treasure pouch" can be stitched up to hold any number of goodies (think Duplo blocks for kids, a small knitting project or juggling balls). I made a bunch of them and love how easy they are to make. The pattern can be found here. 

-For snail mail aficionados, here's a sweet little stationary kit tutorial by Fabric Mutt.

Finally, some other books that you may enjoy...

Celebrate the Solstice, by Richard Heinberg
The Winter Solstice, by John Matthews
Handmade Scandinavian Christmas, by Here Barnholt

I hope these ideas spark some creative energy in you, dearest readers. Please let me know if you try any of them. AND, please be sure to add any of your own ideas here in the comments. I'd love to hear  if and how you celebrate the shortest day/longest night of the year. xoxoxoxox